Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: 2014 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GLS 2WD

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Generally, mid-cycle refreshes are called “facelifts” for good reason: because aside from a nose job and an accompanying price hike, you don’t get much else; manufacturers simply leave the good stuff for the all-new model arriving down the road. Every once in a while though, a car manufacturer breaks this mold and adds a bit more spice into the mix. One such case is the 2014 Hyundai Tucson, but it’s something you don’t obviously see; as it looks like the same one that debuted in 2009. However, drive one and you’ll experience the difference.

Before talking performance, let’s talk design first. As one of the first vehicles developed under Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” design philosophy, the Tucson was revolutionary when it broke cover in 2009. Penned by, bet you didn’t know—former BMW designer Thomas Buerkle, the Tucson is full of sweeping curves and a coupe-like roofline that make it look ten times more modern than its most immediate predecessor. Five years on, the design is holding up well. Taken on its own, the Tucson still does look futuristic. With that in mind, Hyundai designers didn’t mess with the sheet metal for the refresh, but they did swap the lights and the wheels to blend it with the family look. The front projectors with LED park light “eyebrows” are clearly influenced by the Santa Fe (and this isn’t a bad thing) while the rear LED brake lamps give off an unmistakably cool molten lava appearance when lit at night. The wheels, though keeping the same size and diameter as before, are now painted in gunmetal gray.

Like the exterior, the 2014 Tucson’s interior is almost untouched from when it launched. For the mid-cycle refresh, Hyundai revamped the climate control buttons (now finished in rubberized matte plastics) and the shifter (from a gate-type to a more conventional set-up). Overall, the interior remains a modern and sleek design, particularly in the X-shaped center console, but the choice of materials is now lagging behind the competition, especially in the expansive use of hard, scuff-prone plastics. It doesn’t help that the driving environment’s getting dated as well. The leather/fabric combination seats are generally comfortable but the ideal driving position is more upright than usual because of the lack of a telescopic steering column—something that’s bog-standard in every other compact crossover now. Space-wise, the Tucson is still up there. Those in the back will enjoy comfy seating for a three adult spread complete with their own air conditioning vents and three-point seatbelts.

For 2014, Hyundai upped the entertainment system of the Tucson by swapping out the OEM radio for an aftermarket job from DVD/GPS-go-to-guys, AVT. Though it does give the Tucson much more entertainment options (and a built-in Bluetooth hands-free and rear parking camera to boot), the interface is clunky with a display that washes out at the slightest hint of sunlight. Plus, it leaves an unsightly panel gap.

Now to the part you’ve all been waiting for: performance. The biggest headline for 2014 is that Hyundai has swapped the 2.0-liter Theta-II engine for the Nu engine. On paper, it seems would-be owners just lost the lottery with a power decrease from 165 horsepower to 158 horsepower and torque decrease from 197 Nm to 192 Nm. But what’s 7 horsepower and 5 Nm between car enthusiasts? Based purely on seat-of-the-pants experience, the 2014 Tucson feels much perkier and livelier from a standstill. Perhaps the power curve is less peaky or that majority of the power is available down low, but whatever the reason is, there’s good pull. However, mashing the throttle won’t result in a punchier response. It’s as if the Tucson’s power is already dialed up 90 percent with the accelerator half-pressed, so adding 50 percent more effort just results in 10 percent more gain. The lack of straight-line performance aside, the new engine is noticeably quieter, smoother, and slightly more fuel efficient than its predecessor. Just how fuel efficient? Where the old Theta-II mill mustered only 8.26 km/L in in city driving, the Nu-powered Tucson does it at 8.85 km/L or a 6 percent improvement. This figure goes up to 14.28 km/L on the highway.

In terms of road manners, the 2014 Tucson is already feeling its age and is starting to get left behind by the competition. The electric power steering has almost no feel and is rather slow responding near the center. This has been purposely done probably to improve its highway behavior, but in reality, it’s still very susceptible to crosswinds and road undulations. Once or twice, you’ll find yourself fighting with the wheel just to keep it in a straight line. And it’s a shame given it’s one of the quietest compact crossovers in the market today. The suspension is on the firm side and this makes the Tucson a surprisingly spirited and agile crossover to take into corners. On the flipside, because this suspension is paired with a not-so-stiff body structure, it tends to send every road imperfection straight into the cabin. It’s odd because it doesn’t seem to like left/right bumps, but can take front/rear bumps quiet well. Finally, though the brakes bite well; it has a vague initial bite which robs some driver confidence. Basically, it feels like the very same Tucson that came out in 2009.

It’s normal for carmakers to hike up the prices of its refreshed models and the Tucson’s no different. But what does the price of the new drivetrain cost? P 1,288,000. This price hike of more than P 100,000 would be easier to swallow if Hyundai put more standard equipment apart from the new engine. Alas, Hyundai has kept everything steady. The 2014 model loses the steering wheel controls in favor of a back-up camera and a GPS navigation system. The rest of the equipment is the same: dual SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes, rear parking sensors, multi-information display, and leather/fabric combinations seats. And there’s the rub. At its new price range, the Tucson is already precariously close to the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and the Mazda CX-5—much more polished, more refined, and certainly newer crossovers. The Tucson will still sway buyers who’re after fuel efficiency more than anything else, but it’s clear that time hasn’t been so kind to it.

2014 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GLS
Ownership Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GLS 6 A/T
Year Introduced 2009
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration NA
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 158 @ 6,200
Nm @ rpm 192 @ 4,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6AT
Cruise Control No
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,410
Width (mm) 1,820
Height (mm) 1,685
Wheelbase (mm) 2,640
Curb Weight (kg) 1,520
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires 225/60R17
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control No
Parking Sensors Yes
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Leather/Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control No
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls No


  1. this is why among all the car review websites and magazines in the phils., I respect carguide.ph the most. they review cars honestly without bias and consistently they will point out what is wrong with new cars unlike other reviewers that mostly just praise shit cars.

  2. I wish Hyundai retained the steering wheel audio controls.The diesel tucson is still the one to have

  3. Is there any news on whether Hyundai was able to fix the issue on engine stalling? I heard that owners of the Sta. Fe 2011 or 2012 model filed a class suit in the US against Hyundai because the engine would stall for no reason at all while the car goes 40-80 mph. Based on some research, it appears that there have also been this sort of problem for Tucson owners locally using the Theta II engine. Hopefully this was already resolved in the current model since it would be waste for such a nice looking vehicle.

  4. Although I owned 4x4 2013 Santa Fe DM. so far no problem encountered yet. I love 2014 4x4 Tucson for the replacement of my 2nd vehicle aging Toyota Revo.

  5. Did they fix the issue on the brakes? The excessive brake dust is so irritating and the sound it sometimes makes when braking is off-putting.